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Introduction

Page I-1a ⇒A STEM System⇐

Acknowledgements The many students willing to populate the Modeler’s classes and hundreds of the nation’s most outstanding collegiate chemistry, science, and engineering educators and a smaller number of secondary science teachers have donated to Modeler’s ideas contained herein. Their contributions are clearly the positive components; the looney and featherbrained components are Modeler’s alone. STEM educators work many unpaid hours, care deeply for each student they encounter, strive to do their best in whatever circumstance they labor, and usually feel they did not do enough. They enjoy seeing students succeed and are deeply disappointed when success eludes a student. They made fantastic role models for Modeler. Educators are not the only people concerned for the nation’s STEM students; many in the science-rich communities donate time and receive employer support to enrich the teaching taking place in schools and colleges. Modeler has worked with bench chemists, laboratory directors, and CEOs, whose motivations may have differed while seeking improvements in STEM education. Over many years, hundreds of representatives from all levels of the science-rich have helpfully supported Modeler with information, funding, supplies, and equipment. Colleagues on the staff of the American Chemical Society and members of its Virginia Section continue to be supportive with suggestions and aid of various kinds.


Page I-1b

⇒A STEM System⇐

Modeler is very appreciative of the direct contributions to the concepts included in ⇒A STEM System⇐ of Dr. Colleen Taylor of Virginia State University and her students and his former colleagues at The Carmel School in Ruther Glen, VA. The website presentation has been improved greatly by the editorial work of Kate Tipton and web development and design by Matthew Nolan. Finally and most importantly, Modeler thanks Ginny, his wife, for warm support and insightful questioning as he tries to make some final contributions to improving education in the U.S. Objective of This Website Presentation of ⇒A STEM System⇐ Applying a systems perspective to high school STEM education reveals some potential for improvements. ⇒A STEM System⇐ is presented as a model seeking improvement from STEM practitioners and advocates. Modeler hopes it will stimulate further discussion and debate, particularly for finding ways to bring the expertise of the science-rich into the classroom. Broad Objectives for STEM in ⇒A STEM System⇐ Using applicable guidelines and implementing required state or national standards, ⇒A STEM System⇐ will prepare students to: 1. Apply knowledge of STEM content and basic laboratory skills culminating in successful performance in the first college-level STEM courses of science and engineering curricula. 2. Engage knowledge of STEM content in decision-making for affecting public affairs and demonstrating responsible citizenship.


Page I-1b

⇒A STEM System⇐

Stimulating Events for Developing ⇒A STEM System⇐: Late in 2015, Modeler (author of this website) was invited, through a contact in a military research laboratory, to participate in a “design effort” for the programs and physical facility of a new high school. The invitation afforded the opportunity to apply an engineer’s perspective and organize nearly 40 years of observations about and 9 years of recent experiences in high school education to a draft model of improvements that might be possible. The actual school “design effort” met Modeler’s expectations – no program considerations were allowed. Discussion centered on the size of an atrium and study carrels. For the next several months, Modeler improved his model and discussed it with colleagues. As the new school year approached, testing of a key element of the model was attempted in one class – engaging STEM Catalysts in the teaching process. The lack of an extant model and the need to design new instructional materials proved too high a hurdle for implementation during the teaching year, although one project engaging college students was applied successfully.

So, Modeler retired again to have time to reconsider and improve the proposed model for changing STEM education. Hopefully, the draft system presented in this website will stimulate improvements to the model and spawn some initiation/evaluation projects.


Page I-1b

⇒A STEM System⇐

Symbolic Effects and Definitions Used in This Website Initial capitalization (e.g., Student Project) is used to recognize specific terms having a unique meaning in this website.

⇒A STEM System⇐ = One possible system of coordinated components and personnel to provide a comprehensive multidisciplinary STEM experience for all high school students Association of STEM Catalysts and STEM Dynamos = A membership organization of the named individuals that assures the preparation of their members to work effectively with one or a family of Student Projects or motivation. It maintains a database to facilitate connections between its members and schools. It may serve as a source of high quality Student Projects. Lead Teacher = Member of a Teacher Team overseeing a specific Student Project. Modeler = Author of this website. Kenneth Chapman, Principal Partner, Cardinal Workforce Developers, LLC. Science-poor = Precollege institutions

Science-rich = Organizations having STEM Specialists, including industry, business, high education, and government agencies.


Page I-1b

⇒A STEM System�

STEM = A multidisciplinary science/engineering course accepting students from grades 9 through 12. The term may have other meanings as clarified by the context. STEM Catalyst = A STEM Specialist from a science-rich organization prepared to work on one or more specific Student Projects with a Lead Teacher as a client/ guide/mentor to students in a Student Team. The STEM Catalyst need not leave the worksite and should not need to invest more than 5 hours of work time for a specific Student Team project. STEM Dynamo = A person providing a motivating message for high school STEM students.

STEM Specialist = An expert or advanced college student in a STEM field. Student Project = Project to be undertaken by Student Teams, with oversight by a Lead Teacher and a STEM Catalyst. Student Team = A group of up to 10 students, with members being assigned by the Teacher Team. Members represent all grade levels from 9 to 12. Teacher Team = A group of teachers (preferably four) having at least B.S. level capability in biology, chemistry, physics and an engineering field.


Page I-1b

⇒A STEM PageSystem⇐ I-1d

REVOLUTION, Not Evolution Modeler (author of this website) stood beside his International pickup truck in a parking lot in Williamstown, Kentucky, on a sunny Saturday, October 5, 1957, listening to the radio issuing a periodic beep – the first broadcast of Sputnik signals. Technology and political life was starting to make an abrupt adjustment to a new reality. For several years, the science-rich (industry, government agencies, post-secondary institutions, and independent research labs) had been complaining about the inadequate quality of high school graduates. The challenge of Sputnik launched several college science educators into the limelight as they proclaimed, “I know what to do for my field.” The National Science Foundation soon funded over a dozen projects for high school science to help the U.S. reclaim its lead in science and technology. As new instructional materials emerged, high school science courses began a slow evolution from descriptive characteristics to a more basic science concept foundation and inquiry-based experiments. Yet, on April 26, 1983, Secretary of Education T. H. Bell received a report from the National Commission on Excellence in Education, which contained the statement, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” No science educators came forth touting, “I know what to do for my field.” The usual evolution continued in high school science.


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⇒A STEM PageSystem⇐ I-1e

After several years of work in the 1990s at the appeal of the National Research Council, National Science Education Standards were developed with an administrative impact on state standards and guidance of programs seeking to improve science education and teacher qualifications. Science textbooks were “keyed” to the standards. In general, there was little real change in evolutionary progress. In its most recent attempt to change high school science (or STEM), the National Research Council worked with the state-based Achieve organization. The impressive first draft of Next Generation Science Standards was produced quickly by a top-quality writing team and included engineering as well as science. The result may be an increase in the evolutionary rate for making change. Many science-rich organizations have long presented programs for high schools. The very successful Westinghouse Science Talent Search, started in 1939, was one of the early attempts at increasing high school student interest in STEM. In 2018, the program continued as the Science Talent Search with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals as the principal sponsor. Recent years have seen many companies, government agencies, and other organizations provide mostly extracurricular science and technology programs for high school students.


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⇒A STEM System⇐

Numbers that relate to high school STEM are sobering. In 2017, U.S. high schools enrolled over 15,000,000 students. Note that the Science Talent Search reached 147,000 exceptional students in its first 76 years. Some reworking of an Education Week Research Center report released in late 2017 suggests that only about 70% of American high schools even offer a chemistry course. The American Institute of Physics reports that in 2013 fewer that 1.4 million high school students were enrolled in a physics course. That is only about 10% of high school enrollment. How do we reach more high school students with effective STEM education? Many exceptionally capable science educators, school administrators, science-rich organizations, and government officials have worked for decades within the usual constraints – unsuccessfully. A revolution is required.


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⇒A STEM System⇐ Page I-1f

The Revolution Provided by ⇒A STEM System⇐ To create ⇒A STEM System⇐, Modeler had the luxury of a wealth of high school teaching experiences and previous associations in education to be considered through the lens of an engineer. The high school STEM education world has many great attributes and an extremely dedicated cadre of teachers and administrators ranging in age from new college graduates to near retirees. Minimizing retraining and giving students maximum teaching resources was an imperative when creating ⇒A STEM System⇐.


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⇒A STEM System⇐

Revolutionary Components of ⇒A STEM System⇐

1. The triumvirate courses of biology, chemistry, and physics are replaced by multidisciplinary courses of STEM 1, STEM 2, STEM 3, and STEM 4 (an elective). 2. Very large classes include students from all four high school grades. 3. Student Projects created by teams rather than individual teachers become a key component of the instructional program. 4. In addition to content guided by standards relevant to the institution, the Student Projects provide instruction in teamwork, project management, peer instruction and evaluation. 5. Student Projects provide an added Teaching Team member, a STEM Catalyst from a science-rich organization. 6. Classes are led by a Teaching Team of up to 4 teachers with specialties in biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. 7. Two grades are given during the instructional periods and as final grades: 1) STEM Foundation and 2) Conception. A failing grade for STEM Foundation would not require makeup as the knowledge/skill implied by the grade can be gained at a later time. A failing grade for STEM Foundation would not prevent graduation.


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⇒A STEM PageSystem⇐ I-1g

Possible Initial Implementation Steps for ⇒A STEM System⇐ Most discussion in this website assumes steady state operation, which would take several years to achieve at an individual school. Each school must develop its own plan to work through the start-up period. All the earlier, somewhat successful major evolutionary milestones in STEM education saw science discipline membership organizations (e.g., American Chemical Society, American Geological Institute, American Institute of Biological Sciences, and American Institute of Physics) take leading roles. National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) was a major cheerleader and promoted teacher training very strongly. However, NSTA did not endorse the concept of merging biology, chemistry and physics into courses of Science I, Science 2, and Science 3, when led by an Executive Director promoting that change. National Research Council and other august multidisciplinary bodies seem unlikely leaders for a STEM revolution of the magnitude suggested by ⇒A STEM System⇐. A top-down driven revolution appears unlikely, although some regional STEM organizations may have the resources and mission to undertake such an effort in their service area. A systems-oriented STEM revolution may most likely develop as a pseudo-bottom-up effort driven by one or more universities or a consortium thereof.


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⇒A STEM System⇐

One Possible Scenario A university having good relationships with (1) one or more high schools whose STEM faculty and administration support radical innovation, and (2) strong connections with science-rich research institutions willing to work with long timelines and limited short-term accomplishments, could develop several projects under a unifying leadership to: 1. Develop several Student Projects strongly oriented toward specific discipline areas and produced by teams, each of which includes a STEM Specialist, a teacher, a writer, an editor and an artist. Each Student Project would be produced most efficiently by having a couple of preliminary planning meetings, a working session of 2-3 days, a period of intense review, and a meeting to approve a final draft. The Student Projects then would be class evaluated. 2. Implement a draft professional development program for teachers, who would work as members of Teacher Teams. 3. Implement a draft professional development program for STEM Catalysts from the science-rich sources. 4. Using existing STEM triumvirate classes, implement the Student Projects applying both Teacher Teams and STEM Catalysts with minimal disruption of existing school operations. Observations and information amassed from each of the above steps would enable a thorough reconsideration of the proposed ⇒A STEM System⇐. Useful features could be carried forward and restructuring would address the problems and failures encountered, possible for a second iteration.

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